Saving the Heart and Soul of the University of Tulsa
Saving the Heart and Soul of the University of Tulsa
What is Our University?
The 2017-2022 TU Strategic Plan describes “the liberal arts core” as standing “at the heart of TU’s mission.” But the recent cuts to undergraduate education strike at the heart and soul of liberal education.
We take note of the fact that the board of trustees and administration have placed athletics above academics, “data”—much of it grossly inaccurate and misleading—above judgment, and secrecy above transparency. We also observe that the administration's actions and preference for professional and vocational training betrays not just a misunderstanding about liberal education, but complete lack of interest in the cultivation of genuinely independent minds.
We demand that the administration immediately reverse “True Commitment,” its decision to cut undergraduate programs in Philosophy, Religion, Theater, Musical Theater, Music, Languages, Law and graduate and doctoral programs. The purpose of a university is beyond only job acquisition. Universities are meant to foster the educational pursuits of students and professors alike. “True Commitment” only serves to stifle this function.
There are fundamental, unanswered questions about the restructuring of the University of Tulsa. How will hiring, promotions, and tenure--functions traditionally performed by independent academic units of qualified teachers and scholars--work under the new divisions that replace the cut departments? Will this erode the quality of the professors hired? Will the new “Humanities and Social Justice” twisting of Arts and Sciences affect students’ degrees? Does a “Humanities and Social Justice” major have meaning? What does “Humanities and Social Justice” even entail? Will specialization suffer from so many combined programs? What will be the academic rigor of the new programs since they have class size restrictions? There are too many unknowns with “True Commitment” for it to be viable.
On April 11th, the University of Tulsa announced monumental cuts to the Arts and Sciences, Humanities, Business, Law School, and graduate and doctoral degree programs. This dismemberment of the liberal arts studies is nothing short of reprehensible, and the process by which these departments were gutted was confusing, riddled with false numbers and misinformation.
President Clancy has claimed, in an email called "True Commitment," that these changes are for the greater good of the university, and that those affected only comprise 6% of students. With a student population of 4,105 (according to TU's official webpage), that still equates to more than 246 students. Clearly, more than 6% of the student body is affected, because programs like Theater and Music enrich the entire university and wider community.
Even so, more than 246 students at the University of Tulsa were just told by the administration's actions that their majors are unimportant, inconsequential, and irrelevant. And that is unacceptable.
The departmental casualties for undergraduates:
- Theater, Musical Theater, Greek, Latin, Russian, French, German, Deaf Education, Information Technology, Geology, the Joint Degrees (Business and Law Accelerated Program), and Philosophy and Religion.
The Law School lost:
- All L.L.M. programs and M.J. programs, including Native American and Indigenous Law.
- Anthropology Ph. D., Art M.A., Fine Arts M.A., History M.A., Women’s and Gender Studies M.A., Mathematics and Science Education M.S.M.S.E, Electrical Engineering M.S.E., Mathematics Ph.D., Physics M.S., Physics Ph.D., Engineering Physics M.S., Geophysics M.S., Geosciences Ph.D., Chemistry Ph.D., Chemistry M.S., Biochemistry M.S.
Estimates indicate that nearly 40% of the degree programs at the university were eliminated.
Class sizes now have a minimum of number of students (about 10-13). This minimum hinders specialized and upper-level classes because they will be forced to alter curriculum to cater to broader circles.
These cuts impact current students because it undermines the value of our degrees. By “phasing out” programs only to cut them immediately following graduation raises questions over the validity of our degrees going into the future.
Majoring in German and French is now impossible for low income students. The administration has prohibited the German and French departments from offering upper-level courses, meaning that at least two semesters abroad are required. Not to mention that the study abroad program has just axed funding for international housing. These restrictions suffocate these departments by pushing potential students away, bottlenecking the growth of the languages until they too will be shut down.
The administration proposes somehow to sustain what is has referred to as “Honors – Classical Studies.” But funding for the Honors Program was slashed this year and the number of entering students in 2019 cut in half. Moreover, professors of Greek, Latin, German, French, Chinese, Philosophy, and Religion contribute well more than half of all credit hours in the program. Honors is unlikely to survive the aforementioned cuts.
The Flaws of the PPRC Process:
During the town hall on April 12th, Clancy and Provost Levit repeatedly touted the “qualitative and quantitative data” as leading the “faculty-driven project” to make the choices that it did. This data, however, is not publicly available. The only way to access the PPRC’s data is by receiving permission from the Provost as it’s physically locked in her office. Halfway through the town hall, one student specifically requested that the data that drove these budget cuts be made public to the students and posted on the university’s website. Unhesitatingly, the President shot this request down.
Additionally, it’s concerning that the faculty and staff for the PPRC were handpicked by President Clancy and Provost Levit. The faculty of the PPRC cut powerless programs without consulting the professors or students that comprise them. The PPRC was not a faculty-driven project. Every member was selected by their respective deans, and then interviewed by the president and provost to see who would best match their interests. Professors were left with very little say.
Professors were tasked by the administration to draft comprehensive Program Reviews. Generally, these reviews explore the past five years, chart growth fluctuations in the department, are based on upwards of nine different data sources, list numerous testimonies from graduates about how the programs prepared them for the next phase of life, and offer practical remedies on how to improve the program and make them financially viable. Professors spent weeks developing these documents, some even going beyond the requirement and charting twenty-nine years of departmental change.
The PPRC did not read or consider the Program Reviews for the following departments in Arts and Sciences: English, Philosophy and Religion, Arts Management, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Languages. All of these programs had cuts. That means every cut was based on outdated and grossly inaccurate data. Moreover, the PPRC refused to accept any corrections from professors about their own departments.
Finally, the most egregious wrongdoing is the composition of the PPRC. The PPRC did not include a representative from theater--which was cut. It did not include a representative from the music performance department--which was cut. It did not include a representative from the philosophy and religion department--which was cut. It did not include a representative from the languages--which were largely cut. The administration effectively cut these departments with zero input. Before hundreds of students, the administration revealed its double-faced doublethink, claiming to be “all for the liberal arts” while simultaneously backstabbing these core programs, carving profound scars on an otherwise flourishing student body.
1. Repeal "True Commitment.”
2. Consult the Student Body on the creation of a new proposal that incorporates the ideas, values, and suggestions of students and what they want to learn at the university, not simply the direction the "Board of Trustees" wants to take us in.
- Any decision that impacts the lives of professors and students should be clear, open to public forum, and unprejudiced.
- “True Commitment” attempts to belittle the impacted students by simplifying them down to a number--only 6%. This label is misleading and prejudicial. Many students opt into curriculum from these departments without taking on a major. Many professors from these departments teach other curriculum. This 6% has deep roots intertwined with programs all across campus.
3. Create a New Board of Faculty, chosen by the professors, to help in the creation of a better proposal.
- The board should be comprised of faculty from every department (both those retained and eliminated in "True Commitment").
- The new proposal should be officially distributed to the student body before the university votes on it. Anything short of absolute honesty is unacceptable.
- The representatives of this new committee should be chosen exclusively by the professors within their departments.
4. Publish All Information regarding the sources and methods used to obtain the “qualitative and quantitative” data that led to these cuts.
- Release all data to be publicly disseminated and commented on.
- Publish all sources and methods used to the student body to be fact-checked.
5. Prove the University's Commitment.
- If the university is genuinely and truly committed to the students, then the administration will not hesitate to listen to the student body.
- If the university is genuinely and truly committed to the students, then the administration will publish all data that led to these decisions.
- If the university is genuinely and truly committed to the students, then the administration will back its words with action. The administration will repeal “True Commitment.”
- At the beginning of their academic journey, every student on this campus committed to the university of Tulsa. Now it falls on the university to commit itself to every student. Truly.